In winter time bats have an ingenious survival technique that I am sure you are all aware of – hibernation. It is the perfect way for these small flying mammals to endure the cold winter and allows them to lower their metabolism to save energy, as flying insects, their primary food source, are harder to find over the winter months. They have prepared for this moment in the autumn by eating as many insects as possible; this increases their fat reserves which they are now using as fuel to survive the winter months. During this torpor period, bats can lower their temperature to an amazing 2°C!
Summer roosts are different to winter roosts, in winter bats use cool, moist places such as caves, old mine-working, cellars and disused tunnels. These places are known as hibernacula are usually difficult to find as bats tend to be well-concealed in crevices etc, and leave no obvious signs of their presence. Hibernacula need to be able to provide bats with a constant, cool temperature.
During periods of mild weather bats may wake up from their hibernation. If they find that their fat reserves are low they will often use this opportunity to feed. If they are repeatedly awoken from hibernation and there isn’t enough food available, they can lose so much body fat that it sadly leads to starvation. If you see a bat flying around during the day do not fret too much, however if you see one on the ground the best thing to do is don your gardening gloves and put it in a shoe box. Then phone the Bat Conservation Trust helpline on 0345 1300 228 who will put you in touch with a local bat responder who will come and take it away and care for it until it can be released back into the wild.
Laura Preston – Scottish Wildlife Trust, Falls of Clyde Ranger
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